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Mike Ekeler's fascinating first-hand account on the life of an assistant

Mike Ekeler is from David City, Nebraska. After playing his college ball at Kansas State, Ekeler's coaching career began at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha. After climbing the coaching ladder at Oklahoma and LSU, his first full-time job came as the linebackers coach at Nebraska. In 2011, Ekeler left his dream job for another dream job, as Indiana's defensive coordinator. Two years later, he was coaching linebackers at USC, where the Trojans' tilt-a-whirl 2013 season left out of a job despite a wonderfully successful season considering the extraordinary circumstances.

Ekeler provided a letter to the Journal Star detailing his travels since leaving Nebraska and the scramble that led him to land a job as Georgia's inside linebackers coach. It's a fascinating peek inside the world of a major college assistant. We're not going to post the full letter - which may be found here - but here are a few excerpts.

On leaving Nebraska for the Indiana defensive coordinator job:

Dec. 24th, 2010, was one of the hardest days of my life. We had our last bowl practice in Lincoln and it was the day I told our LB group (Will Compton, Sean Fisher, Lavonte David, Alonzo Whaley, Matt May and pseudo assistant coach Blake Lawrence) that I was leaving. After practice we gathered in our LB group and I broke the news, at least tried to break the news. I couldn't talk, I just started crying and looked up and the whole group was crying. When you leave a dream job, you leave for one reason, and that is to grow both as a person and as a coach.

On learning that he would not be retained at USC:

Dec. 4th, I was sitting in my office game-planning for our bowl game and noticed who I thought was Peter Sirmon (Sark's LB coach from Washington). He was in the office across the hall filling out H.R. paperwork. I walked over and introduced myself as the "former LBs coach at USC." I ended up meeting with Sark the next day and told him if he hadn’t brought his defensive coaches from UW, I wouldn’t have respected him or wanted to work for him. During the next three weeks, I became friends with all the new coaches. It was unusual. We shared our offices and they watched the bowl practices. Dec. 21 we won our bowl game, and I'm officially on the street.

On using his old contacts, especially ones at Nebraska, to get his new job at Georgia: 

Jan. 15th, the University of Georgia LBs coach leaves to go to the NFL. Jan. 16th, I called Tom Osborne at 7 a.m. and asked if he would call Georgia head coach Mark Richt. Coach Osborne called me back 20 minutes later and said they had a great visit, and Coach Richt would truly consider interviewing me. At 8 a.m., Bo Pelini called and spoke with Coach Richt and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Jeff Jamrog called his good friend Josh Brooks, who works in the Georgia athletic department, and the ball was rolling.

Helton made calls to his good friends, Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Bob Stoops called Pruitt ... All this to try to get an interview!! Jan. 23rd, I received a call from Pruitt. He said they were going to bring me and a few others in to interview for the last defensive spot. I called Nebraska video coordinator Mike Nobler, a great guy, and he hooked me up with all of Georgia's game film via Hudl; that was huge.

Jan. 31st, I went to Athens and interviewed. What a process!!! During my interview, Coach Richt told the staff, “Mike pulled out the Big Gun on me, Coach Osborne, so I had to bring him in.”

Read the full letter here.

Author: Zach Barnett
Zach Barnett is a native of Denton, Texas and a graduate of the University of Texas. He joined FootballScoop in 2012 after two years at the National Football Foundation. His hobbies include watching college football, reading about college football and writing about college football.